Culture in San Mateo, California

San Mateo is a vibrant and diverse city located on the San Francisco Peninsula in California. With its close proximity to San Francisco, San Mateo offers residents and visitors easy access to big city amenities while maintaining its own unique culture and small-town feel.

This article will provide an overview of the various aspects of culture in San Mateo, including the arts, entertainment, cuisine, diversity, architecture, and more.

Arts & Entertainment

Performing Arts

The San Mateo Performing Arts Center is the crown jewel of performing arts in the city. This large theater hosts concerts, Broadway shows, dance performances, comedy acts, and more throughout the year. Other notable venues include the Peninsula Youth Theatre, Bayshore Lyric Opera, and the historic Fox Theatre which dates back to 1928.

Museums & Galleries

Art enthusiasts can explore the San Mateo County History Museum to learn about the area’s past and see rotating exhibits. The Peninsula Museum of Art features contemporary art shows. There are also many privately owned art galleries scattered throughout downtown San Mateo. The Hiller Aviation Museum is great for aviation buffs.

Music & Nightlife

Downtown San Mateo has a handful of lively bars, pubs, and lounges that host live music on weekends. Popular spots include O’Neill’s Irish Pub, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and 55 Degree Wine. For dancing, Salsa Sundays at the Havana Cuban Cuisine restaurant is a fun weekly event.

Parks & Outdoors

The lush Central Park is a hub for community events and features a free public library, a Japanese tea garden, and a historical museum. Other nice parks include Beresford Park, Martin Luther King Jr Park, and Ryder Park. The Bayshore Freeway bicycle path is great for cycling, running, and hiking along the waterfront.

Sports & Recreation

Professional Sports

The San Francisco Giants MLB baseball team plays at nearby Oracle Park, easily accessible for fans living in San Mateo. The city is also a short drive from the San Francisco 49ers NFL football team’s Levi’s Stadium. The Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team also plays just up the road in San Francisco.

Outdoor Activities

The San Mateo Marina is perfect for fishing, kayaking, and boating. There are also many nearby golf courses, skate parks, swimming pools, and trails for hiking and biking.

Popular kite-flying spots include Seal Point Park and Shoreview Park. The Coyote Point Recreational Area offers sailing, windsurfing, and paddle sports rentals and lessons.


San Mateo’s dining scene reflects the city’s diversity with restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world.

Local Specialties

  • Sandwiches – Icons like La Corneta and Riviera Italian Deli are known for their massive sandwiches.
  • Seafood – Quality seafood restaurants like The Oyster Bar and Kingfish utilize fresh catches from the nearby coast.
  • Pizza – Go-to spots like Oregano’s Pizza Bistro and Peninsula Pizza & Grill serve up delicious pies.
  • Burgers – South City Kitchen, The Refuge, and Vesta do gourmet burgers right.
  • Mexican – Authentic taquerias and family-run spots like La Costa, Los Panchos, and La Tapatia.

International Flavors

Some global cuisines represented in San Mateo include Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Mediterranean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian. Top picks are Restaurant Christophe, Flights, Pho Ha Noi, and Tas Kabob House.


40% of San Mateo residents are Asian, showing the city’s diversity. The large Filipino and Japanese communities host annual cultural events like the Florence Parade and the Japanese Obon Festival.

The San Mateo County Pride Center supports the sizable LGBTQ+ community. Overall the accepting culture makes people of all backgrounds feel welcome.

Architecture & Neighborhoods

San Mateo is known for having many custom-designed Craftsman, Spanish, and Mediterranean-style homes built in the 1920s and 30s. Downtown has a number of historic buildings with architectural interest, like the San Mateo Library.

Popular neighborhoods include:

  • Central – Mix of residential, commercial, retail, and green spaces around Central Park.
  • Hillsdale – Primarily a residential area with good schools and a suburban feel.
  • North Shoreview – Working-class homes near the waterfront by the Bay Bridge.
  • Sugarloaf – Higher elevation homes in the hills with great views.


From the performing arts to sports, cuisine to nightlife, San Mateo provides easy access to big city attractions combined with comfortable small-town living. The city’s diversity shines through in the cuisine, culture, and welcoming spirit.

Exploring the history, architecture, neighborhoods, and parks gives a sense of this vibrant community’s character. With so much to experience, San Mateo is a great destination for both residents and visitors to appreciate the culture of the San Francisco Peninsula.


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  • Starting downtown, head north on South B Street then make a left on East 4th Ave followed by a right on South Delaware Street. Turn left on 9th Avenue and arrive shortly on the right.
  • Coming from Highway 101 North, take the CA-92 West exit then turn left on Delaware Street and right on 9th Avenue, arriving soon after on the right side.
  • From Hayward Park Station, walk northwest on West Hillsdale Boulevard, turn right on Norfolk Street followed by a left on 9th Avenue. 812 will be on the left side.